Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Cadillac Records': a review

I am a huge fan of biopics. It's very exciting to see the lives of real people illuminated in front of you. Knowing too much about the historical reality of their lives can get in the way however. Hollywood, as we all know, likes to "Hollywoodize" biopics: twisting and tweeking the details of lives to make them more interesting to the viewer.

I figure, you have to get over that. But sometimes it's hard.

Take the movie Cadillac Records: a biopic about the legendary rhythm & blues record label Chess Records. The movie stars Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess, Beyonce as Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer as Big Willie Dixon and Mos Def as Chuck Berry. I enjoyed seeing these notorious musicians come to life, but it was really hard for me to get past some of the added Hollywood aspect.

I cannot help but compare this movie to Dream Girls, but the big difference is that Dream Girls was an intact musical before it was ever a movie. And, even though everyone knows that the movie is based on the record label Motown, it's highly fictionalized.

In the film Etta James and Leonard Chess have an adulterous relationship that challenges racial stereotypes and employer/employee boundaries. As far as I know this is a fabrication, and it bothers me. I wonder what Etta herself had to say about it? I DO know that Etta was pissed that Beyonce got to sing "At Last" at Barack Obama's inauguration and not her...

I was also bothered by the character of Leonard Chess and the ABSENCE of his brother, Phil. It was the Chess Brothers that started and ran the label, it wasn't a one-man operation. But alas, Leonard was the more colorful character. He was a crude-mouthed, smart-ass and the role only brought that out in a very minor way.

Rich Cohen's The Record Men is a fabulous recount of the Chess story. Leonard Chess is quoted all over the book and his words are something right out of a Mel Brooks comedy routine.

"How to you celebrate a hit? You go to the bank, schmuck!"


"Who knew you could strike it rich with a few schvartzas and a reel-to-reel?

I imagine the producers consciously toned down... scratch that... DELETED the ugly money-grubbing Jewish Stereotype that was Leonard Chess. I guess as a Jewish person I appreciate that, but I still miss the personality.

What I did love about the film was much of what I simply love about the story in general:
  • Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf's frenemies relationship
  • Etta James' dramatic and traumatic life (her autobiography Rage to Survive stresses the fact that she owes Leonard Chess for keeping her alive and keeping her house)
  • Howlin Wolf's devotion to his band (he always made sure they got paid fairly)
  • Leonard Chess' devotion to his musicians (he took care of many of them, heightening his "White Daddy" status)
  • Muddy Water's womanizing
  • How the Rolling Stones loved and respected Muddy Waters like a god.

Chess Records has a fascinating story, and while I don't agree with some of the "Hollywood" type additions, I do feel that the essence of the label is treated fairly and with great respect in the movie Cadillac Records.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

JAI HO! 'Slumdog Millionaire' composer and Oscar winner A.R. Rahman performs at the Oracle Area in Oakland

A.R. Rahman shows off his two Oscars

UPDATE: This show has been canceled due an accident that occurred with set collapsing in Detroit. This show will be rescheduled. Fortunately no one was hurt in the accident.

A.R. Rahman is one of India's most popular and epic film composers. The Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire turned American pop culture, at least mainstream pop culture, onto Rahman in a major way. This Saturday, Rahman graces the stage of the Oakland Coliseum with the Jai Ho: the Journey Home World Tour.

The show promises to be quite a show of Bollywood enthusiasm featuring changing sets, large images on LED screens and a spectacular cast of musicians and dancers from across the globe including Hariharan, Javed Ali, Benny Dayal, Blaaze, Shweta Pandit and Neeti Muhan. "Through the concerts," says the AP, "Rahman is attempting something many performers from outside the English-speaking world have tried and failed to do: transcend a regional, ethnic niche and become an international mainstream superstar."

I first fell in love with Rahman's music when I saw my first Bollywood Film, the Oscar nominated 2001 film, Lagaan . The music and the story remain my favorite (see "Mitwa" below). When the movie Slumdog Millionaire started to gain popularity...


My fav, "Mitwa" from Lagaan:

In the clip below, Bhuvan (the fabulous Aamir Kahn) and his friend Gauri, must convince their friends and fellow villagers in 19th century colonial India that while the task of beating the English colonialists, the earth and the sky belong to them and are worth fighting for.
Listen, O my friend,
What is this fear you have?

The earth is ours
And so is the sky.

And how can I not post this?

Monday, June 21, 2010

I'm syndicated at Hear it Local!

I have the pleasure to announce that Always More to Hear has been syndicated on the San Francisco site of Hear it Local. They have asked a handful of local music bloggers to be involved, and I'm flattered to have been included.

Check it out! And if you're in the Bay Area (or the Twin Cities or Boston where the site also exists), please become a member and enter your favorite bands, venues, organizations, etc. And add me as a "friend." Hear it Local is a one stop shop for local music scenes and can be described as a yelp for music, sort of an aggregator of all the resources out there.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jamie finally learns to take semi-decent photos with her point-and-click: My First Earthquake and Angelique Kidjo

Rebecca Bortman and Dave Lean of My First Earthquake

This week I had the chance to see two amazing bands fronted by powerful women: My First Earthquake and Angelique Kidjo. I also finally figured out how to use my point and click camera to take semi-decent photos of performers (it's only been years).

Thursday, San Francisco's own My First Earthquake released their new E.P. Crushes at the Rickshaw Stop. I love Rebecca Bortman in her sequins, red gloves, red tights and a red scarf. Her dance moves are awesomely dorky and the way she handles heckling is superb. My First Earthquake has become one of my favorite local bands, and I don't use that phrase lightly.

See the video below: a fan made video. Note: the bee man was at the show and had fully functioning limbs. He was invited up to dance on stage with Bortman in thanks for being hit by a car for the cause of this video. We are grateful.


Dave Lean and Rebecca Bortman of My First Earthquake

Angelique Kidjo struts her stuff at the Stern Grove Festival

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dina Maccabee's Chasing the Moon podcast with Ramon & Jessica

Every so often I like to brag about the people I know and went to school with. I have been so lucky to know some amazing musicians and creative people.

Dina Maccabee and I have crossed paths a number of times, we went to the same overnight summer camp in Southern California, both got music degrees from The University of Michigan and have ended up now living a couple blocks from each other.

Dina is a classically trained violist, but has been seen with a violin and even behind a drum kit. She currently plays with the quirky Ramon & Jessica and Jascha vs. Jascha She now has her own band, the Dina Maccabee band (and will be playing at Cafe du Nord on July 8 in San Francisco) You'll have to ask her how many bands she's in, your guess is a good as mine!

Chasing the Moon is a San Francisco video podcast that features local bands. The current episode features Ramon & Jessica with partner in crime Jesse Olsen and accordianist Marië Abe.

Ramon & Jessica @ Chasing The Moon 05.27.10 from Scott McDowell on Vimeo.

More about Dina Maccabee's

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Africa Mix

In honor of the World Cup in South Africa, I've reposted the Music of Africa, now downloadable!

Including artists from all over the continent: BLK JKS, Amadou & Mariam, The Soweto Gospel Choir, Mariam Makeba, Tinariwen, Fela Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Cesaria Evora.

Click here for the full tracklist and download link.

Lia Rose of Built for the Sea looking for your help to fund her solo album

It's a brilliant concept: pay for Lia Rose's album now and get it hot off the press when it's done! That's the idea behind many of's projects. Many of us donate to non-profits, why not help unsigned musicians pay for a new project? The music industry is changing so rapidly, it's impossible to see where it's going. Record labels used to be the only way to make a record, but now you can do it from your bedroom. Unfortunately, it still takes money to make a record.

Fund the project here!

Lia Rose is the ethereal voice in front of the dream anthem pop band Built for the Sea. Their sound is big and warm. Rose's voice is sweet and hypnotic. I started listening to Built for the Sea recently and it was hard to take the CD out of my car stereo. Now Rose is hitting the studio on her own to create something all her own, perhaps something a little more delicate. It'll be exciting to see what comes out of this new project.

There are many different levels of funding, each with their own sized "reward" from a signed CD to a handmade art piece by Rose herself. As of Thursday afternoon, Rose is 78% of the way to her goal with 93 backers. She has 14 days to go. Can she raise the money to get cracking? Will you help?

Click here to hear a couple demo's off the upcoming album

Lia Rose on myspace

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


What do you think? I'm still playing around with it, but I think blogspot's upgrades and my new logo (thanks Jemal!) fit my needs perfectly.

Find the new facebook fan page here. But don't bother if you follow the blog another way. I don't want to overdo it with the post alerts.

There are more exciting things to come for Always More to Hear. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Where's Jamie at the SF First Aid Kit show?

This is funny: A couple weeks ago First Aid Kit played the bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. Joanna and Clara took a picture with the crowd (look all all the hipsters!) and I figured I was too short to be seen in anything. But there I am! Can you find me?? (Double click the photo to enlarge.)

Click here to read the email interview I did with Joanna.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New logo!

Hey ya'll! My friend Jemal over at the Jemal Show created a new logo for this blog! I'm in the process of revamping the whole page and will save the whole thing for it's unveiling, but I wanted to show you part of it!

It's super simple, but I think it encapsulates what my blog is about.

Woohoo! So cute!

You'll find this music note globe is also on my twitter account AND I've created a fanpage for my blog as well. I figure most of you don't need another way to follow the blog, but if you want to, please become a fan of Always More to Hear on facebook!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Indie" workout mix!

If you're like me, the music you listen to while working out greatly affects the quality and enjoyment of whatever you're doing. So: I made a mix of all of my favorite high energy "indie" songs. I've be listening to this playlist for the last week or so, just testing the songs out and I'm ACTUALLY SAD when my time is up on the elliptical.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD! (w00t! I've joined the 21st century!)

Also, enjoy the collaged cover above. Feel free to grab that and put into itunes.

"Indie" is a term I'm using very loosely (hence the quote marks), so don't give me any crap about it!

If you're old school and want a CD, send me your address and I will make one for you. I think this playlist might be a little long to all fit on a CD, but I'll make it work.

If you do download it, please give me some feedback. I would love to hear what songs you did and did not like, especially for working out! This is probably pretty darn good driving mix too.

1) Ashes - Embrace
2) Sunrise - Yeasayer
3) Sweetness - Jimmy Eat World
4) Is It Any Wonder? - Keane
5) My Girls - Animal Collective
6) Red and Purple - The Dodos
7) Bleed from Within - The Music
8) Ciudadano - Maneja Beto
9) Last Embrace - Northern Room
10) White Shadows - Coldplay
11) Grounds For Divorce - Elbow
12) Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) - Arcade Fire
13) Trouble - OONA
14) Smiley Faces - Gnarls Barkley
15) White Palms - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
16) Oh No - At Dusk
17) Days Go On - Greg Laswell
18) Pounding - Doves
19) There There - Radiohead
20) Destroy Everything You Touch - Ladytron


WomenROCK celebrates four years of Bay Area girl power at the Independent this Wednesday

Just weeks before Lilith Fair hits the Bay Area on July 5th, WomenRock showcase some of the local female talent on the stage of the Independent. WomenRock is an all-female musician, artist, and activist collective and after four years the collective continues to grow and become more prominent. This will be the collective's first show at the Independent.

The evening will feature Stripmall Architecture, *bernadette*, Conspiracy of Venus and ZIVA with a burlesque performance by the Cheese Puffs, Spoken Word by Scorpio Blues, SHEketch comedy from PianoFight's Monday Night ForePlays & dance party with DJ Kipp Glass

"We are taking it upon ourselves to work together to create a new, enterprising model of visibility, access and self-enfranchisement. We are organizing ourselves to work together to showcase our creative endeavors, talents, intellect, business savvy and penchant for community-building and activism, whilst creating self-sustaining, quality, alternative lifestyles.” says the celebration’s organizer, musician, activist, and WomenROCK visionary, *bernadette*.

Click here to read Bird in the Tree's interview with several of Wednesday's performers.

For tickets

Friday, June 11, 2010

The World Cup entertainment features an all-star cast of African Musicians

Yeah, I'm actually up early to watch the first World Cup Game between hosting country South Africa and Mexico. My brother is there covering the games (he works for Major League Soccer) and I'm going to South Africa in December, and I'm sure they'll still be talking about it, so I want to have some idea of what's going on.

I enjoy soccer for many of the same reasons I enjoy music from around the world. You can learn so much about the culture through that window. For that reason I find soccer, or football if you will, anthropologically interesting. We'll see how long it takes before I get back in bed though...

But there's actually been some cool musical things going on around the World Cup bringing out the best of Africa's current music scene (and some American pop stars, but I'm not going to mention them):

First: The opening concert was full of some of my favorite African musicians, Angelique Kidjo, (Kidjo will be performing at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on June 20th), BLK JKS, Tinariwen , The Soweto Gospel Choir , Vusi Mahlasela and Vieux Farka Touré.

This is South Africa's own BLK JKS (pronounced Black Jacks) a band that I can only describe as an African TV on the Radio.

Malian blind couple Amadou & Mariam:

To watch the opening kick off concert click here.

Second: The World Cup's Opening Ceremonies featured Cheb Khaled (seen) left, known as the "King of Raï," an immensely popular form of Algerian folk pop. My brother interviewed him as a celebrity fan during his Sports Illustrated days, read it here (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page). South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and Nigerian Femi Kuti also performed at the ceremonies.

And finally, of course, I have to mention the national anthem of South Africa, "Nkosi Sikelel' i Africa" it's so beautiful. You'll probably be hearing it a lot in the next few weeks. Here it is.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Salif Keita to appear with SFJAZZ promoting the cause of the African Albino

African musician Salif Keita is an albino: a term used for those individuals with albinism. Albinism, as you probably know, is a congenital disorder characterized by the absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. What you might not know is that in some countries on the African continent, these individuals are often killed because of the superstitious beliefs associated with albinism.

Keita’s new album La Difference is a dedication to these people and a statement bringing attention to the cause. While Keita has always been a speaker for those with albinism, this album is the first time he sings about the deeply personal and painful subject. In two performances (8PM and 10:30PM) this Friday, Keita will appear at Bimbo’s 365 with SFJAZZ.

The story of the 61-year-old’s life is the ultimate “rising above all obstacles to achieve greatness” tale. Keita is of royal heritage, which because of Mali’s strict caste system, is supposed to have kept him from being a musician. Being a musician and a storyteller in Malian tradition is the job of a griot. So Keita was outcast from his family and community on two accounts, that of his chosen profession and his condition.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010